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posted by martyb on Friday April 13 2018, @08:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the sky-high-valuation dept.

SpaceX has raised $507 million, bringing the company's valuation to about $25 billion. That makes SpaceX the third most valuable venture-backed startup behind Uber and Airbnb, and also raises Elon Musk's worth by $1.4 billion to about $21.3 billion. SpaceX will launch NASA's TESS spacecraft on Monday, and plans to launch Bangabandhu-1 on May 5 using the Block 5 version of Falcon 9.

While SpaceX is planning to launch a record 30 missions in 2018, and possibly 50 missions in upcoming years, SpaceX expects the bulk of its future revenue to come from its upcoming Starlink satellite internet service. Internal documents show an estimate of $30 billion in revenue from Starlink and $5 billion from launches by 2025.

SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell has said that the company's BFR could be used for 100-person city-to-city flights within a decade:

A lot can (and probably will) change in a decade. But the idea is that a very large rocket, capable of carrying about 100 people, could fly like an aircraft and do point-to-point travel on Earth much faster than a plane — halfway across the globe in about 30 to 40 minutes, Shotwell said, landing on a pad five to 10 kilometers outside of a city center. Shotwell estimated the ticket cost would be somewhere between economy and business class on a plane — so, likely in the thousands of dollars for transoceanic travel. "But you do it in an hour."

"I'm personally invested in this one," she said, "because I travel a lot, and I do not love to travel. And I would love to get to see my customers in Riyadh, leave in the morning and be back in time to make dinner."

How could travel by rocket cost so little? Shotwell said the efficiency would come from being fast enough to be able to operate a route a dozen or so times a day, whereas a long-haul airplane often only does one flight per day.

She also said that the company could enable a manned mission to Mars within a decade. Boeing's CEO is also "hopeful" that humans will set foot on Mars within a decade.

Finally, Elon Musk has showed off an image of the main body tool/manufacturing mold for the BFR. BFR has a height of 106 meters and diameter of 9 meters, compared to a height of 70 meters and diameter of 3.7 meters for Falcon 9.

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  • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Friday April 13 2018, @02:47PM (4 children)

    by Freeman (732) on Friday April 13 2018, @02:47PM (#666478) Journal

    Concord had really fast flights between the US / Europe and they still went out of business. Not sure how lucrative that market segment could be. Unless their operating costs are significantly less than Concord's was.

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  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Friday April 13 2018, @02:52PM (2 children)

    by Immerman (3985) on Friday April 13 2018, @02:52PM (#666482)

    As I recall Concords had a big problem getting regulatory permission to fly more than a small handful of routes - frequent sonic booms tend to create a lot of NIMBY activity.

    Of course, I rather doubt that a BFR launch would generate significantly less objection - even an F9 launch is LOUD.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday April 13 2018, @03:12PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Friday April 13 2018, @03:12PM (#666490) Journal

      BFR would take off and land vertically from its offshore starting and ending points, and fly higher (suborbital) than Concorde. This could alleviate noise issues.

      These two scraps of info need to be verified and are based off what I remember:

      1. BFR for terrestrial flight could use less thrust at takeoff, so that passengers experience less acceleration and there would be less noise.

      2. You only need to use the "BFS" (Big Falcon Spaceship), aka the upper stage of the full BFR rocket system, for these flights. BFS alone has 12.7 MN of thrust, compared to about 22.8 MN for the Falcon Heavy's [] first stage + 2 boosters, and ~7.6-8 MN for the Falcon 9 [] first stage (will increase a few percent for Block 5). BFS would actually be able to get payloads into orbit without its huge accompanying booster.

      So if only the BFS is used, and it is throttled down to an extent, then it might not be so bad, especially given that it would be several kilometers offshore. That might be one of the more challenging aspects of the project: sure you have a fast 20-40 minute travel time for just about any two cities, but you have to travel offshore and back onshore using a boat, train... or Hyperloop. Throw in the usual TSA nonsense and your amazing 30 minute trip could be looking like a 3 hour trip instead. If it can compete with international flights on price, which seems optimistic, maybe it will be worth it.

      If BFR doesn't make the cut for international flights, there is still hope for improvement with NASA's quiet supersonic X-plane design [].

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      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday April 14 2018, @04:37PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Saturday April 14 2018, @04:37PM (#666962)

        1) Possibly, but reduced thrust equals reduced efficiency as you depart from the optimal flight path, and thus reduced payload. And humans actually make for a fairly dense payload. And even a throttled back launch would likely be louder than a current F9 launch, which is horrendously loud, even from miles away. Offshore launch pads certainly help with that, but limits you to cities along the coast (admittedly that probably covers a majority of the most desirable endpoints)

        2) All the SpaceX videos I've seen show the suborbital flights still using the booster, so I question your assertion that it wouldn't be needed. Also, the last claims I saw of the BFR Spaceship making it to orbit on it's own were from last... July I think, when they were still discussing the original design - the scaled-down version wasn't announced until around November. Even if the claims still hold, you'd be talking a drastically reduced payload. After all it's not just the thrust that matters, there's also all the extra mass of the larger ship in the face of the tyranny of the rocket equation.

  • (Score: 2) by NewNic on Friday April 13 2018, @09:44PM

    by NewNic (6420) on Friday April 13 2018, @09:44PM (#666637) Journal

    The route they built Concorde for was London to LA. They never got permission for supersonic flight over the USA.

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